Magic in Manhattan: Disney Cruise Brews

Hard to welcome James back when he seems to be a staple around here lately. I say that with much happiness (if I didn’t… he might not make me dinner tonight.) Here’s an extensive look at the beers we drank on our recent Disney Cruise.

One of the best things about going on vacation is being able to drink all you want without worrying about getting home.  It’s even better on a cruise ship because nobody is driving home.  So now that I still remember most of our recent trip aboard the Disney Magic, I wanted to give a quick update on the beer situation we experienced.

First of all, we had an “excursion” in New York City the night before the ship left which included a backstage tour of the New Amsterdam Theater and a performance of The Lion King on Broadway.  To get our trip started right, Estelle and I went to a nice little beer bar restaurant, Beer Authority, for dinner.  They boast over 60 different brews on tap and over 40 bottles.  I went with the Leffe Blonde by Abbaye de Leffe, a Belgian pale ale which I happened to like very much.  It was sweet and bready and malty and somewhat bubbly.

During intermission at the show, Estelle and I each had a Tusker Lager, a Kenyan beer, in a souvenir Lion King cup.  I have been a huge fan of Tusker Lager ever since having it at the Animal Kingdom Lodge on our honeymoon last year.  There’s nothing special about it, it’s just a slightly malty, slightly toffee-ish light beer that seems perfect for cooling you off after a hot, scorching day in the African wild.  It’s like African Coors Light, but better.

Once we boarded the ship the next day it took us about 20 minutes to hit the bar.  Our favorite spot is Signals, the wood bar by the adults-only pool.  On tap they were serving Bud, Bud Light, and Kona Longboard Island Lager.  On our last trip on the Magic they had Yuengling instead of Kona, but I was still happy.  The Longboard, like Tusker, is a very crisp and refreshing beer that’s perfect for hot summer days.

The bottle selection was pretty decent, with Samuel Adams and Brooklyn Brewery nut brown ale mixed in among Boddington’s Pub Ale and Heineken and Corona.  There was one amazing standout, though: Ommegang Abbey Ale.  A Belgian-style Dubbel hailing from Cooperstown, New York, the only way this beer could have found passage on the Magic was because we were sailing from New York City.  I can’t think of any other reason why a beer this amazing would be on a ship full of Bud Light taps.  If you ever have the opportunity to indulge in this beer, you should do it.  It’s not for everyone, though.  It’s dark, slightly spicy, fruity, malty, and complex.  It was probably not the best beer to drink while baking in the sun on a Caribbean cruise, but it was amazingly delicious.

The ship’s sports bar, Diversions, didn’t fare so well.  Their tap list was pretty miserable, consisting of Bud, Bud Light, Michelob Amber Bock, and Michelob Ultra.  Their bottle selection included Newcastle, Corona, Heineken, Samuel Adams, Blue Moon, and various others.  We also made good friends with the coolest bartender on the ship, Bagus from Indonesia.  I drank quite a few Newcastles, but I was very impressed with my friend’s Samuel Adams, which was labeled in Russian!

On our port day in Nassau we went to the beach at Atlantis and, after a quick dip in the ocean, headed straight for the bar.  I sampled all of their local Bahamian beers: Kalik, Sands, Sands Light, and Bush Crack (which doesn’t even have a listing on Beer Advocate).  They were all light, crisp lagers in the style of Bud and Bud Light.  Honestly, they all tasted pretty much exactly the same.  Bush Crack had perhaps the most beer-like flavor that brought it out of the doldrums.  I wouldn’t recommend any of them unless you were at the beach and it was disgustingly hot and humid (which it was that day).

Two days later we had our port day in Walt Disney World, so after a dry morning in Magic Kingdom we had a wet afternoon in Epcot – literally.  It poured on us.  We took shelter with drinks in Tutto Gusto in the Italy pavilion, where I drank a good old Birra Moretti, which is a nice, smooth pale lager that went very well with our cheese plate and much less well with my cannoli.

For dinner at La Hacienda in the Mexico pavilion I went with a Bohemia, a German-style pilsner from Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma in Mexico.  It was light, crisp, and refreshing with a nice lemony, grainy finish that perfectly complemented the spicy chipotle salsa.

After dinner, we decided to grab beers before IllumiNations started but ending up settling for Bass from the fish and chips stand in the UK pavilion when we ran out of time while walking around.  I do happen to be a big fan of Bass, even if it is a mass-produced pale ale.  Still tastes delicious to me.

Perhaps the highlight of our cruise, however, was the night near the end where we went to a 10:45 PM showing of The Avengers in 3D at the onboard movie theater and brought along some Orange Bird sippy cups filled with Blue Point Spring Fling Ale, a delightful pale ale from our local brewery which we brought on board and kept in our room’s cooler.  The cute little bird even wore 3D glasses!

In the end, I’d say that the beer selection on our trip was relatively uninspired, with the exception of the Ommegang Abbey Ale at Signals.  The addition of Brooklyn’s nut brown ale was a nice option but I unfortunately never took advantage of it.  I did try to drink some more mixed drinks than usual since I drink beer pretty much exclusively at home.  Mixed drinks make me feel like I’m really on vacation!

Don’t forget to check out James’ review of the Beers and Ears app over at Mouse on the Mind from last week!

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